Monday, July 23, 2007

House of Shayme

This entry was initially supposed to feature an intimately affectionate in-depth analysis of 2004's Van Helsing (one of the most unfairly maligned movie triumphs in recent cinematic history), but folks? That'll have to wait.

Right now, I'd like to express my frustration with TBS.
And no, I'm not talking about an archaic tablespoon abbreviation.
I'm referring to the former Turner Broadcasting Station which, we can all agree, has proved an embarrassing failure in its attempt to attract viewers by showing popular films in their most egregiously bowdlerized airline-approved versions.

This is the network that reinterprets family-friendly fare by broadcasting the infamous crucifix scene from "The Exorcist" while replacing the line "Let Jesus fuck you!" with "Let Judas Priest fudge you!". How the topic of exorcism can be addressed in a film where any mention of God's only begotten son is replaced with dubbed lines referencing a notorious occult-metal rock band fronted by a leather-clad sodomite escapes me, but there you go.

They showed "Van Helsing" back-to-back last night. Closer than back-to-back, truth be told. At one point they actually displayed the ending credits of the movie in the bottom half of the screen while restarting it again in the tiny rectangle occupying the top half. Why?

Why, to save money, silly. Running non-stop ads for in-house-produced projects like "Bill Engvall" and "My Boys" doesn't allow for much time in between showings, does it? To say nothing of the hateful animated crawls that burst forth like so much toxic pus over the featured program, obscuring a huge portion of the picture for a full thirty seconds...

Obviously, I'm not a TBS fan.
Last night, however, while being subjected to a segment of this obscenely pervasive hype, I was struck by an ad for a show called "House of Payne". The spot was just as maddeningly intrusive as the rest, deploying a sudden, wildly distracting graphic of a fat guy leaning against a door assailed by some equally fat persons that were advertised as his "family". It looked bad. Exactly how bad I determined to find out for myself. offers free downloads of their newest "original" programming, so naturally I found myself checking out the link for House of Payne's deliriously panned first episode. Patiently, I allowed the sponsored ad to finish, happily anticipating what critics promised to be an ineptly staged, culturally offensive, comedically tone-deaf nightmare on wheels.

Instead I see this.

I click a link to a different episode. Once more I'm forced to watch the Pine-Sol and All-State endorsements, but again the message of exclusion repeats itself. First in English, then in French, followed by German and then Japanese.

Wh...what the hell? TBS is discriminating now?

I'm all for discrimination when it applies to matters of taste and aesthetics, but blocking IP addresses from foreign countries is a different kettle of fish. What are they worried about - bandwidth expense? This is TBS for Chrissake.
They should be grateful for every last hit.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ma'am...we didn't find any "boy".

There is a Friday the 13th Blog-A-Thon going on, brought to you by the lovely Stacie Ponder at Final Girl. And Bob Mackey has a fairly exhaustive (well, by slacker standards) Friday the 13th film series retrospective up at the Kent State official student website.

To round out the pertinent links, there's this. It's a three-year-old review of Freddy VS. Jason by Film Freak Central's Walter Chaw. This is absolutely one of the most insightful, penetrating, and cleverly subtle tongue-in-cheek reviews I've ever read. If there are two horror icons that cry out more desperately for Freudian analysis and Jungian interpretation than Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, then I'd like to meet them. Well, not in a dark alley, I wouldn't.

Seriously, whether you consider Freddy VS. Jason part of the official Friday canon or not (or simply thought it was rubbish), this thing is comedy gold, and well worth your time to read (if only for the line "...Jason himself may be the manifestation of a penis, tumescent and ramrod straight...")!

As far as my thoughts on the Friday the 13th films go, I'm not likely to ruffle any feathers with my observations:

  • Betsy Palmer is a goddess.
  • Amy Steel is a goddess.
  • Dana Kimmell's voice can strip paint.
  • Parts One, Two, and Four were the best. Part Five was easily the worst.
  • The MPAA effectively neutered the series as their requests for cuts became more aggressive and unreasonable. At one point, they even demanded shots of Jason's face be removed, as it looked "too grisly". And yet they gave "Mask" the green light and probably sent Cher a freaking gift basket.
  • Siskel and Ebert went way too far with that whole letter-to-Betsy campaign.

Yeah, not exactly controversial statements. One thing I do remember about these movies is just how much fun they were to watch as a kid. And, like comic books and Doctor Who, Friday films are damned hard to outgrow.

For example, I still have this.

Famous Monsters #163. It was my very first introduction to the legend of Crystal Lake, and man, did I get hooked. Plenty of gory (B&W) snaps, with captions like "This is the enda of a girl named Brenda" (Forry was so cheeseball!), and the accompanying article was basically a detailed synopsis of the whole film until the decapitation scene! No spoiler warnings in those days. Plus, Jason looks really freaky on the cover; it used to turn my stomach. I'd get spooked by this magazine at bedtime and hide his dishpan-mug under a comic book or a less frightening FM issue. I suppose I could have just turned it face down...

Here's me at 18.

And no, it's not my graduation photo. It was Halloween.
I had to work that night, bussing tables at a Mexican restaurant. Halloween isn't a very busy night, but I still managed to scare a few patrons. Mostly by maintaining complete silence.
"Wow! Cool costume!"
Me: ...
"Say, where'd you get the hockey mask?"
Me: ...
"Is that a rubber machete?"
Me: ...
"On second thought, is there maybe a Denny's in the area?"
Me: ...

I still have that hockey mask. I won't elaborate, but let's just say it's come in very handy over the years.

And this.

The crappy EBay pic doesn't do it justice. In fact, nothing can do it justice but the original 3D glasses that came with the poster. Do I still have them? Do you have to ask at this point?

Yeah, that poster was the shit. The axe head and all those shards of glass are flying right at your face when you look at it properly. Forget those Magic Eye books, this was real 3D on my own bedroom wall!

Anyway, you see what I mean about not outgrowing the Friday the 13th phenomena. I couldn't say just what it is about the series that sticks with people. I'm betting it's pointy, though.

So why don't we break out some bubbly (where's that corkscrew?), raise our glasses and toast the man of the hour on his special day.
Happy birthday, Jason.
You big freak.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Come and gone, as the fleeting breeze.

A few months ago, my twenty year-old Topaz developed another leaky fuel line. Like the blithely incontinent Mrs. Emery from Little Britain, the car was trailing offensive fluid wherever it went. When I was out and about, and people pointed, honked, or scowled, I'd smile idiotically and feign complete ignorance. Of course, with snow and slush covering the ground, my neighbors were none the wiser.

With the advent of spring, however, my community parking lot and driveway dried up, and people were starting to clue-in to my copious fluid loss. It doesn't take Poirot's olfactory genius to follow a trail of noxious, flammable liquid to its source. In fact, I noticed a tendency on the part of my fellow lot-mates to studiously avoid parking on either side of my rusty antique as if it were a ticking time bomb. I can't really fault them, since I seem to recall "ticking time bomb" being one of the phrases my mechanic used after he'd patched those lines a month earlier.

So - it was time for a change. After clearing out the trunk (eleven ice-scrapers...who needs eleven ice-scrapers?) I delivered the tired old trusty Topaz into the caring hands of the junkyard boss. A neighbor was selling her car; a ten-year old Plymouth Breeze, and the asking price was two grand. We haggled, and I paid her $2200. Upon reflection, I may need to tighten up my haggling skills a smidge. Anyway. I was mobile again, and rather proud of the fact. Duel airbags, automatic windows, CD stereo, and fully-functional AIR CONDITIONING! I was finally driving in the twenty-first century!

That was three weeks ago. This past Wednesday, I'm walking to the back of our Townhouse complex to go for a cool, relaxing, fume-free tour around town, and I cannot find the car. "Here Breeze!" I called cheerfully. "C'mon boy!". No answer. Well, that's odd. I remembered backing it (fancy new car = fancy new habit) into my usual spot the night before. But my usual spot does not contain a new car at all.
Instead, it contains a perplexing amount of empty space.


"I think my car has been stolen?" I say timidly into the telephone. The police dispatch lady is very nice, though she does not give me my car back. She gives me bad news instead: "Oh, Chrysler/Plymouth products get stolen every day." she says sympathetically. "They're an irresistible target for thieves. Give us your number, and we'll call you if anything turns up."

So I do this, wondering at the speed with which I went from "hazardous eyesore" to "irresistible" and make a call to my insurance company. Was this really happening?

On the Friday, I get a call. "This is Constable Somethingorother. We have recovered your car." Joy! "Just come by Division 2 in Cambridge to get the release forms."
"Will do, Officer!" I chirp excitedly, suddenly channeling Wally Cleaver.

My elation lasted about as long as it took for me to read the scrawled police report that was handed to me when I arrived at the station. Busted wheel, flat tire, no plates, ignition punched, passenger lock drilled out...
Towing fee: $160 (for moving it two measley blocks).
I signed the form and left. Then I make another call to my insurance company.

The next night (three in the morning, actually), I get a call.
"This is Constable Somethingelsecompletely, we have found your plates. Do you want to claim them, or do you want us to send them back to the Ministry of Transportation?"

"Uh, wait...what, you found my plates? Awesome! Where? How?"

"Well...sir, it's three in the morning, do you want to hear the whole story?"

"HELL YEAH!" I say (Wally Cleaver was clearly still groggy).

Well, they had responded to a call reporting two males trying to break into a Neon in a guy's driveway down in Cambridge, and when police took the two pukes into custody, they discovered one of the little urchins had been carrying my tags in his knapsack. Hurray!

The next day, I was more than happy to return to Division 2 under the pretense of reclaiming my stolen property. But it was the dirt that I was really after. "Who were they? How old? Are they pros? Any drugs found on them? Are they still in custody? Can I see them? Can I jab them with this sharp stick I brought with me?"

The receptionist was a different lady, but just as nice, and very obliging: "Two males; Cambridge residents. Aged 21 and 15. Yes. Yes. Yes. No. Sir, please put that away."


I visited my poor violated vehicle yesterday. It sat there, the only car in my mechanic's lot, looking pathetic and forlorn. My adjuster had called earlier and reported his findings: "Underside demolished. Oil pan missing. Engine hopelessly siezed. Total write-off."

Peering through the driver's window, I also note that the stereo has been nearly wrenched out. From the rear window (still bearing some of the scotch tape that had recently affixed the "for sale" sign) I see a grocery bag full of clothes or something in the back seat. Not mine. I think some undershorts are among the tangle of alien articles, but I'm not about to root around and find out.

The thing is, I was told that I'd likely be subpoenaed when the thieves go to trial. Should I preserve this repellent bit of evidence? Yes, I decide to save it. With my little finger looped through one of the handles, I carry it over to my mom's car and drop it in the trunk.

It's getting late; the sky is darkening and the wind is kicking up. I slowly drive out of the lot, leaving the Breeze behind.

Yet, the breeze is but a rover,
When he wings away,
Brook and poplar mourn a lover!
Sighing well-a-day!
Ah, the doing and undoing
That the rogue could tell!
When the breeze is out a-wooing,
Who can woo so well?
Pretty brook, thy dream is over,
For thy love is but a rover!
Sad the lot of poplar trees,
Courted by the fickle breeze!

~William S Gilbert